Monday, March 12, 2012

Is The Decisive Moment Dead Or At Least Less Decisive?

Good Morning Everybody,

I sure hope you had as good of a weekend as we did around here.  The weather has been unbelievably gorgeous for the last few days - we'll all wondering if we really did skate by most of the snow for the winter.  We're keeping our fingers crossed ;~)

PartyIn addition to great weather, I also had a wonderful Bar Mitzvah shoot on Saturday.  It was one of those parties where everything went off without a hitch, the clients were wonderful to work with and everybody had a fun time.  This was actually the third event I photographed for the family and as I said everything went smooth as silk.

The thing that really stood out for me this weekend were the people - not just Charlie's family, but Charlie himself.  I have never seen such a self assured, generous, attentive young man in quite a while. Remember he is 13 years old and he was just a joy to be around.  Mark my words mom and dad, if you are reading this, Charlie is headed to the top of his field at what ever career he eventually chooses.  I captured some terrific images and plan to share a few of them with you this week - so stay tuned.

Is The Decisive Moment Dead Or At Least Less Decisive?

I've kind of a different post from our normal Quick Hit Monday post for you.  Today I want to pose the question: When it comes to photography, is the decisive moment a thing of the past?  OK, do I have your attention?  You're obviously thinking that I must be crazy to even ask the question.  That's what photography, or at least a good part of photography is all about right - capturing the decisive moment.

Decisive MomentHenri Cartier-Bresson was a master at capturing the decisive moment as are all good photojournalists, especially sports, and event photographers need to have this ability.  But to accomplish that took skill,  practice, timing and a specially trained eye for anticipating that decisive moment. 

Do we even need that trained eye anymore?  Do we even need to get our timing perfect to get the shot?  My quick answer - I think not.  Technology now allows anyone to capture the decisive moment quite easily and effectively.   Here's why I make such a statement.

Fleeting Moments Are Not So Fleeting…. These Days

Moments are fleeting but it’s much easier to capture those fleeting moments these days. Look at the evolution of digital photography.  We've grown from a few megapixel cameras 12 years ago to 45MP monsters and beyond today.  The new Canon 5D Mark III is pushing 22MP and the new Nikon is pushing 36MP.

Canon 5D MarkIIa w-videoThree years ago Canon added decent HD video to the 5D's feature set and the entire movie world went gaga over the camera.  My gosh, the camera shoots 30 frames a second at a 1920x1080p resolution - that's not far from the resolution of my first DSLR, a Fuji S-1 Pro coming in at 2048x1536 – pretty astonishing isn't it.

Why not just shoot a few seconds of video during those special emotional moments, say when the bride and groom kiss, when dad makes the heartfelt toast at the wedding reception, or any other special times during an emotionally charged event.  Heck, at 30 fps, 5 seconds of shooting should net me 150 separate frames/images - the decisive moment MUST be in there somewhere - right?! 

DAZ w-GrabsActually, I think so. OK, the images won't be RAW images but they will certainly be adequate for me to get the one or two images I need to tell that part of the story.  With the image processing capabilities in the new Lightroom 4, I'm sure I could knock out some better-than-acceptable images for the wedding couple's album.  At the 1080p setting on my DSLR, I could easily get the quality I need for a good 8x10. 

If you think I'm still crazy let me tell you about a little test I did – see the above image.  A few years ago after the Canon 5D Mark II was released, I ran such a test. My friend Kent and I did some quick  HD video footage of a high school senior.  I pulled a few frame grabs, made the necessary adjustments in Photoshop and printed them out as 11x14's - and they looked great.  OK, I know a close up of a high school senior is no real test when it comes to a highly detailed subject matter, but for "people" subject matter, the images looked just fine.

Esquire REDHere is the deal - the cameras are getting better all the time.  Take the RED ONE video camera , the RED HD video that started it all shoots the equivalent of a 9.4-megapixel still 24 times a second in RAW!.  You don't think a frame from that camera would make a great printed image. Well it does. The cover of the June 2009 issue of Esquire magazine that was shot with the RED ONE camera - the quality was amazing.  You can read the entire Esquire/RED ONE story right here.

The frame grabbing technique to pull the images for the Esquire cover works the same for our new digital wonders like the newly introduced Nikon and Canon cameras.  And, YES, we can get good looking 8x10 images from those grabs. The HD DSLR cameras once again give us the technology to capture more effortlessly than ever before those decisive moments.

So to answer the question, Is the decisive moment dead? No, never – it’s just far easier to capture than ever before!


Hey gang, that’s it for me today. We spent the night in Lexington, KY – got an early PhotoPro Network meeting today to discuss our upcoming 2012 events and put a little planning into the 2013 convention.  A busy day then back to Cincy tomorrow and another wedding this coming weekend. 

Have a great rest of the day and, all the pixels willing, I’ll see you sometime tomorrow for another Technique Tuesday.  The topic – Just How Far Can Your Push Your Images In Lightroom?

See ya’ then,  David


  1. Cartier-Bresson's contact sheets have been published and you can see that in the case of most of his famous images, he made shots before and after the one finally chosen. The old joke is, that since he didn't do his own printing, the 'decisive moment' came when he circled a frame on the contact sheet and said - "Print THAT one."

  2. Easier doesn't mean you get it. Scott Kelby has been posting about working at Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games. He's learning how to get it.

    If Henri Cartier-Bresson had a RED Camera when he took the picture you used with this post, it would have been technically perfect. It wouldn't have been the one he got.

    This brings to mind a recent podcast discussion I heard with the idea that limitation is what can fuel creativity.